The next Olympics are still a year away, and already, Shaun White is thinking about the games after that.
And it has nothing to do with the halfpipe.
The world’s best-known snowboarder tells The Associated Press he’s exploring competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in skateboarding, which will be added to the program for 2020.
“It’s right there in the distance for me,” White said.
Since he was a kid, the 30-year-old White has excelled on both the snow and on the ramps. Of the 23 X Games medals he’s won, five of them came in vert at the Summer X Games. But with snowboarding part of the Winter Olympics and no similar option in the Summer Games, White put most of his focus on the snow, and it paid off with gold medals in 2006 and 2010.
The International Olympic Committee is adding street and park skateboarding, neither of which are White’s specialty. Some thought it might count him out for the Summer Games, but he’s viewing park skateboarding — which mixes vertical jumps with street features like rails and stairs — as a conquerable challenge.
“It’s going to take a little learning curve but it won’t be too dramatic,” White says.
Right now, of course, White’s main focus is returning to the top on the halfpipe. Wednesday marked the one-year-out celebration to next year’s Olympics in South Korea.
White’s fourth-place finish in Sochi at the last Winter Olympics was a stunner — and it still leaves a sour taste in his mouth, though White says ultimately, it kept his career going.
“I didn’t think that would be my last Olympics; I was thinking about Korea,” White said. “But people kept bringing it up, and it kept getting spun in the media about that being it for me and I should retire. And I started listening. I started thinking, ‘Oh, wow, should I?’”
White doubled down on his fitness, brought 2002 Olympic medalist J.J. Thomas in as his new coach and considers himself as fit and prepared as ever heading into the run-up to Korea.
White struggled at this year’s Winter X Games, finishing 11th, but last weekend, he bounced back with a title at the Mammoth Grand Prix — held at the resort he grew up on and now co-owns.
He will not go into Korea as the prohibitive favorite for gold, the way he entered the last three Winter Games. Japanese snowboarders Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka won silver and bronze in Sochi behind Iouri Podladtchikov, the iPod, who is also considering trying skateboarding in Tokyo.
White describes his ascent in the two sports as “a hard and strange time in my life when I bounced around” and didn’t exactly fit in on either universe. In snowboarding, he was too young (and too successful) to be welcomed in with other top riders; in skateboarding, he says he was, at first, viewed as an outsider coming in to chip away some of the other riders’ shot at money and fame.
“I’m obviously taking my time to just focus on Korea right now,” White said. “But I’m already talking about trying to build a (skateboarding) setup at my house or somewhere accessible to me in LA so I can start training for that.”